Dear Shaw Theatres,
Last Thursday morning, I went to see the giant ape movie Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson at Lido.
Of course, I watched it in Imax 3D because, ahem, high socio-economic status (SES).
Other people of high SES drive BMWs and let the petrol station attendant pay for their petrol.
I like to watch the latest blockbusters wearing cumbersome 3D glasses.
Even if it’s a dumb giant ape movie like Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson.
I leave the regular 2D movies for the lower SES and maybe later when the movies start streaming on Netflix.
In the Lido Imax theatre, there were perhaps only about a dozen people with me and my daughter for the 11.40am screening.
We high-SES types are an exclusive bunch.
The movie opened with the Warner Bros logo, which was normal.
What wasn’t normal was a disembodied male voice describing the logo.
The voice then described how the WB logo transformed to the logo of New Line Cinema.
That was weird.
Initially, I thought maybe the voice-over was part of the movie as some sort of meta, fourth wall-breaking gag. You know, like in Deadpool.
But the first scene of the movie was an intense action-filled sequence that wasn’t jokey at all.
And the disembodied voice continued to describe what was happening on the Imax screen.
Now I knew something was definitely wrong.
Somehow, the movie was being shown with the audio description for the visually-impaired turned on.
I've come across this option before with movies on Blu-ray. But in the cinema?!
And me without my remote control to turn it off.
That’ll teach me to watch the first screening of a movie on opening day.
And I foolishly paid extra for the Imax 3D too (because, ahem, high SES).
Imax is supposed to be an immersive experience, but the intrusive voice-over just took you out of it.
I understand why you would have the audio description for the visually-impaired, but for a 3D movie?
I mean, regardless of SES, why would a visually-impaired person pay extra to see a movie in 3D?
The cumbersome 3D glasses wouldn’t be of any help.
What would you do in a situation like this?
I know what I did. Nothing.
Hopefully, one of your staff members was already aware of the problem and correcting it.
Or an audience member (other than me) would go and alert someone.
There were long stretches when there was no voice-over because the actors in the movie were talking.
I thought the problem was fixed.
Then the actors stopped talking and the voice-over returned.
Then I thought maybe I could live with the audio description and tried to ignore the distraction.
The trouble was that the voice-over sometimes described what happened before it happened, spoiling the surprise.
Like “An albino ape emerges from the foliage” before the albino ape actually emerged from the foliage.
After a few minutes of this, my daughter volunteered to go out to alert someone of the problem.
First, she told the usher outside the door. He came in and listened, but then said he couldn't do anything. He told my daughter to go to the ticket counter and ask for the manager, which she did. The manager came in and stood at the back for a while before leaving.
I thought the audio description would be turned off eventually, but it never was.
Another woman in the audience also went out presumably to complain.
She came back, sat for a few minutes until she couldn't take it anymore and left for good with her male companion.
Then a strange thing happened.
I started enjoying the voice-over as the movie rampaged towards its literal blockbusting conclusion
Because the movie was so dumb, the inopportune audio description actually made it more interesting.
So the glitch turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I now feel sorry for anyone watching Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson without it.
The last words of the voice-over were “Credits roll”.
As I got up to leave, I wondered whether I should even bother asking for a refund.
I needn’t have worried as once we stepped out of the theatre, the usher instructed us to go the ticket counter and ask for the manager to get our refund.
Except it wasn’t a refund exactly but two complimentary Imax 3D passes.
The manager apologised for the audio glitch and explained that the voice-over couldn’t be turned off without stopping the movie halfway, which he didn’t want to do.
Hey, I’m just happy I can watch Avengers: Infinity War in Imax 3D next week for free.
Thank you, Shaw Theatres!
As the BMW driver demonstrated, we high-SES types love free stuff.
Now I just wonder if the woman who left early got her free tickets too.
- Published in The New Paper, 16 April 2018
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